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A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Githyanki)

June 8, 2008

Fiend Folio, 1981

Ah, the nefarious, notorious githyanki. For us older gamers, we first saw these Astral killers on the cover to 1981’s Fiend Folio – and fell in love with their rich backstory and bizarre appearance. They always reminded me of some alien race on Star Trek, like the klingons.

Anyways, I got the opportunity to render them, and their githzerai cousins, quite a few times for Planescape starting with the first Monstrous Compendium. In fact, I still remember one game reviewer saying that my Planescape art reminded him a bit of Dr. Seuss (*see my postscript). I wonder if he was looking at my Grinch-like githyanki design?

Githyanki, 1996

Actually one of the key Planescape game designers, Zeb Cook, showed me some books he had recently purchased from Japan on an artist named Yoshitaka Amano. Of course, the artwork totally blew me away. Back in ’94, I don’t think many knew of his work here in the states, but now his work (rightfully) is much more known thanks to the availability of his lavishly illustrated books. His costume design and patterning were certainly an influence on my githyanki images.

Githyanki head sketches

This morning, I played around with the original Fiend Folio cover pose while incorporating bits of the original and my Planescape design. In my attempt of maturing as an illustrator, I veered away from the “look I am evil. See my evil face?”, and created a more alien, otherwordly look. Besides, the actions of these villainous rogues certainly define their alignment.

Githyanki, 2008

PS – Speaking of nonsense children’s book authors, did you know that the githyanki’s main weapon, their vorpal sword, was originally created by none other than Lewis Carroll for his poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking Glass? That’s so cool…

A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (of my past)

June 7, 2008

Old Sketch, New Tiefling

No, my dear old gaming fans, your eyes do not deceive you. This is a tiefling which was sketched yesterday and inked today.

I am not working for TSR/WotC/Hasbro, in fact; I am drawing and inking away on the upcoming Spiderwick book, A Giant Problem. Part of my routine, when I am on such an intense deadline (and this is one), is “warming up” with some sketching to get my brain-eye-hand-coordination up to speed before I begin the final illustrations.

Planescape Campaign Setting

And I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my farewell to the Planescape role-playing-game (my last book was the third Monstrous Compendium in 1998). As I have said before, I really enjoyed working on that game – despite the insane deadlines. Children’s stories were always my big career goal, but my involvement with Planescape helped me understand how to visualize and build a fantastic world for characters to dwell.

So, over the next week or so, as the urge hits me, I’ll revisit some of the old people and monsters that I drew all those years ago…and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

This gal was actually transfered from the original 1996 sketch. I made some obvious changes as I inked her with a Hunt 102 nib and FW ink – the same medium that I used back then.

Old Sketch

First off, I actually have her doing something. In the original she was just posing, as I likely copied the pose from a fashion catalog – which I used often in those days. Here, she is holding out her necklace and casting some no-good-spell. Also, I hinted at the shadiness of the area she is hanging out in by scribbling in some “Wanted” posters. Her look and attire, as it was then, was inspired by Pris, Daryl Hannah’s character in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

PS–Let’s see if anyone can remember what book this gal is from…I’ll send a set of my d20 character sheets to whomever posts it first:)

Friday Fan Art!

June 6, 2008

Neil sent us this illuminated letter some time ago. What I like here is that if he is not satisfied with the sketch he redraws it. What a novel idea – he should be teaching in art school.

Neil’s letter

His letter is great. This is how my story manuscripts look before my editor gets a hold of them.

Thimbletack and Hoggy by Neil

He also did a couple of drawings of yours truly. One with I-just-woke-up flattened hair:

“Tony D take 1″ drawn by Neil

and another, more accurate, stressed out version. See how I am looking at my drawing table? What you can’t see is the calendar taped down to it with the deadline fast approaching.

“Tony D take 2″ drawn by Neil

Right around the time Neil’s letter arrived, Maxwell also sent in a portrait of me. Clearly this was rendered after I have finished a project deadline. You can tell because the hair is good, there’s no beard, no red eyes, and I am smiling.

Tony D drawn by Maxwell

Have a great weekend!

Life inspires Art inspires Life

June 3, 2008

A couple of years ago, I was down in South Florida showing Holly Black some of the natural areas that I knew very well as a kid growing up. I took her to the rocky shore of Blowing Rocks Preserve and the scrubby palmetto woods of Jonathon Dickinson State Park. Our purpose was to find inspirational locales for the Spiderwick sequel, Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles (BtSC).

Mangrove Hollow

BtSC takes place in fictitious Mangrove Hollow, one of the numerous housing developments that have blanketed the coast of Florida (as I am sure has happened in many places nationwide). There is a proximity to a preserved natural wetland, but also there are man-made (or “man-enhanced”) natural features like the excavated pond that Taloa the nixie lives in.

Angela and I showed Holly a housing development in my old hometown of Jupiter that was exactly how I envisioned Mangrove Hollow. We walked around the development, schemed and plotted a bit, and took photos for visual reference. Ang’s mom was a realtor for the development and, before we knew it, we found ourselves inside one of the models.

Wetland preserve in Mangrove Hollow

Ang and I both loved it.

So here I am again, a couple of years later, back in Florida – we purchased a little winter home right here in Mangrove Hollow. I walk Sophia by Taloa’s pond every day, but we still have yet to see her…or any giants (thank goodness!)

Taloa’s pond reference

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (the end)

May 18, 2008

With the final art and text in production for Kenny and the Dragon, I focused on helping the marketing team at Simon and Schuster come up with some nice visuals to help create awareness for the new title.

Simon & Schuster Summer ‘08 Catalog

Though it is extra work on my end, I like having unique images to sell a book without reusing the cover art. I’ve done this for most all of the Spiderwick books, and it really helps get folks excited when they see a specially designed poster and/or original designed cardboard floor display which we so often see scattered about our favorite bookstore. Here is a comp for the display top for Kenny, which you may see in a store near you this August.

Display riser for KENNY & THE DRAGON

I had hardly a minute to myself after all of this was done before I jumped onto the next Spiderwick book, A Giant Problem. Since most of the characters have already been created, I have found myself back in the world of sketching scenes of curious kids, rampaging giants and troublesome fairies…

…and for my older fans who have been following these posts, here is a AD&D character sheet for a mouse thief whom I’ve named “Sam Wisewhiskers”. Enjoy!

Sam Wisewhiskers - professional thief and foodie

Friday Fan Art!

May 16, 2008

I was delighted to receive 10-year old Nathan’s drawings this week from Arthur’s Field Guide. These sketches were especially neat, because they weren’t the usual characters from the series.

“Knocker” by Nathan

“Stray Sod” by Nathan

“Piskie” by Nathan

…and also (as Nathan pointed out), they were not traced.

Nice work Nathan! Keep at it, and here is my Pixie sketch for the Field Guide. Have a good weekend!

“Pixie” sketch by Tony

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 5)

May 10, 2008


Because Kenny and the Dragon is aimed for the same age reader as Spiderwick, I wanted to make a conscious effort to give it its own identity. To that end, my editor suggested illustrating the book in halftone pencil drawings versus the ink drawings that I’ve done for the Spiderwick books.

Since I am captivated by the work of sketchy-type artists (like Peter DeSeve and Heinrich Kley), and curious about that initial doodle that comes straight from the mind, I was excited about this approach. So, for the initial book layout, I did quite visualized and detailed sketches – more so than the loose gestural stuff that I do for a Spiderwick book.

Initial sketch of Kenny

Then, after we (“we” being myself, the editor, and art director) agreed on the sketch (and its success when dropped in with its adjoining text), I’d go back into it and tighten it up here-and-there until it was completed.

Detailing done to initial Kenny sketch

I liked the softness of the sketch. I felt it perfectly suited the tone of the story and, with the text, would make great page-spreads. But when I got the initial layouts for the book, many of the images seemed grey and ghostlike – and not integrating at all with the wonderful black type. Uh-oh.

Sure, I could bump up the contrast, but doing so would burn out some of the halftone that I was working hard to maintain. I assumed the only way the art would have equal presence was to ink it. So, despite my instinct, I went ahead and inked up a piece.

Pen & ink sample done of Kenny

That didn’t work for me either. One of my mantras is always “to push the boundries” both story-wise and artistically – I feel it is the only way I’ll grow expressively. Inking my next non-Spiderwick chapter book seemed like a sideways move artistically more than a forward step. So I was creatively stuck. Then I thought of John Tenniel.

Sir John Tenniel, as some may know, was an illustrator for Punch magazine as well as many books including the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In fact, his images for that book have become literary icons.

printed image of the Mad Hatter

But, the finished illustrations we know and love are the product of finely detailed wood block engravings, which were how illustrations were reproduced back in the 1800s. They may look like Sir John rendered them in pen and ink, but in actuality he rendered them in pencil on a block of wood, which the engravers (in this case the Dalziel Bros. – remember my mention of them a few posts back?) would prepare for printing.

Tenniel’s final pencil drawing

Studying a few Tenniel reproductions set me on the right path: Draw the Kenny illustrations in pencil, but render them as if you were inking it. The strokes became concise and clean, I was able to then push the contrast up on them a touch, and (most importantly) I was artistically satisfied. Whew!

Final illustration of Kenny

PS – For more on Sir John’s work, check out Tenniel’s Alice published by Harvard University Press.

Friday Fan Art!

May 7, 2008

Whoa! Ashley has taken Friday Fan Art to a new level:

Ashley’s right hip

Both mermaids, taken from Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, took over 10 hours to complete. As I told this tattooed trooper, that’s more than this artist could handle – even if it was my art!

Ashley’s left hip

I am truly blown away by this Ashley, thanks for sending these pics along…and sitting in a parlor for 10 hours. Actually the work is rendered quite well, considering these 2 images were the toughest in all of the Field Guide.

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 4)

May 1, 2008

Kenny Model Sheet

With my cast of animal characters starting to take real shape (and personality) I began building the world that they all lived in.

Kenny’s dad herdin’ the sheep

Kenny resides in a little town called Roundbrook. It is a farming community, and was inspired by our life here in Amherst, Massachusetts. Amherst is a college town, but it is surrounded by agricultural areas and the land is blanketed by rich farmland. (As an aside, they grow asparagus and corn here which Ang and I eat our weight in every summer.)

The vast spaces of fields and farms represent “the world of possibilities” both to me, when we relocated here from NYC, and to the hero Kenny. So I wanted the reader to experience the wide open landscape with most of the action taking place atop a large hill (aptly named Shepard’s Hill after the illustrator) where Kenny and Grahame can see the whole world.

Kenny crossing Parrish Creek

Though Kenny lives in a little farmhouse, he loves going into town. I would imagine he’ll become quite a cosmopolitan character once he leaves home to set out on his own. I based his character on myself, and my assistant Will (who does ride a bike everywhere, and would rather ride a penny-farthing over a traditional bicycle if given the opportunity).

Sketch of Kenny Rabbit’s house

I needed to know all of this before I began designing Kenny’s world. His environment had to be an extension of him. It is steeped in nature and natural forms with hints of human elements added. I wanted the house to be so comfy you couldn’t wait to go and visit.

Sketch of the Burrow Bookshop

And I wanted the town to be an evolution of that. So I explored the building design of Kenny’s house and grew it into a small little bustling village – much like the main street in Amherst. Here’s one of the finished images from the book:

Final illus. from KENNY & THE DRAGON

…now I’m hungry for corn and asparagus…and ice cream.

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 3)

April 25, 2008

Original Kenku

Anybody remember a critter called the “Kenku” in the old AD&D Fiend Folio? I loved that guy! I think, because I liked the idea of an intelligent human-like animal adventuring in a fantastic setting. I have always wanted to draw him, so I doodled one out a couple of years back, here it is:

A TD Kenku

That got me thinking about creating a fantasy world where there were no humans, but animals that had taken on certain traits like walking upright, making clothes, reading, learning spells, etc.

Sure, its been done before. Obviously Brian Jacques’ Redwall series comes to mind, but then so does Disney’s film adaptation of Robin Hood (as my brother has pointed out, some of the Kenny art bears a resemblance to Milt Kahl’s work). And, of course, there is my fav, The Wind in the Willows.

Rabbit Wizard doodle

So I started with a doodle of a rabbit wizard. I thought a rabbit was a good median character: they are quite intelligent, found in a variety of environments, and are social animals – the perfect adventurer!

This sketch of my rabbit-wizard sat in my files for some time waiting patiently for a world to be created around it. Ultimately, it would set the design tone for the characters inhabiting Kenny an the Dragon. If a rabbit was this sort of persona, then I needed something obvious that could be the warrior, the gallant knight, of my tale. Immediately I thought of a badger.

Developmental Sketch of George E. Badger

See how this begins building? My agent, Ellen, was right – a fantasy animal world was indeed the perfect setting to for my dragon to arrive in. I feverishly began to design the cast of main characters, and then began creating the environment for them to inhabit…more on that next time.

…now I need to roll up the stats for my mouse thief character to go with my owl mage…

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 2)

April 20, 2008

Before I post more sketches of the characters and world I created for Kenny and the Dragon, I thought I would share some of the inspirational art that I looked at while writing the story.

Beatrix Potter, 1922

I started with the best known rabbit artist of all time, Beatrix Potter. Her technical skill and eye for detail in her numerous nature studies made her a master of creating anthropomorphic animal characters. The above shows her knack of placing these characters in an inviting environment as well. Look for Beatrix Potter Artist & Illustrator, by Anne Stevenson Hobbs, for more of her wonderful watercolors.

Br’er Rabbit bt A.B. Frost

Around the turn-of-the-century, when Beatrix was becoming huge in England and abroad, the American artist Arthur B. Frost was dazzling many with scratchy frenetic pen line. Probably best known for his work on the Uncle Remus books, he also illustrated books for such greats as Lewis Carroll. Though he gained a lot of accolades for his later paintings of hunters and fisherman, I prefer the inky gesture of his book illustration. The above watercolor is from The A.B. Frost Book.

Sullivant for LIFE magazine (1900-1919)

DETAIL - Sullivant for LIFE magazine (1900-1919)

Alongside Frost was an editorial illustrator named Thomas Sullivant whose work is bit harder to find (since he worked primarily for magazines and newspapers), but Jim Vadebonceur has featured Sullivant’s deft line-work in his many issues of the magazine, Images.

Br’er Rabbit by Harry Rountree

Over in New Zealand, Harry Rountree was creating fully animated scenes for children’s books and advertisements with his line and watercolor work. His rendition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, done in 1908, is one of the best. The above is from his version of Uncle Remus.

“Gooseberry-pie” by Wallace Tripp

Moving forward in time, I looked at Garth Williams (as Jim G. mentioned) and Lillian Hoban (I mentioned Emmet Otter back when I was discussing dragon designs). But Wallace Tripp’s work really had a lively quality which reminded me greatly of Garth’s work. The above is from 1976’s Granfa’s Grig Had a Pig. there are some of the main influences in the character designing that went on in Kenny. I hope this was an introduction to some lesser-known illustrators who will delight you as they did me. Track some of their work down, you won’t be dissapointed.

Friday Fan Art- Triple Hogsqueal!

April 18, 2008

We got a lot of great art this week, but what stood out most were these three drawings of my favorite hob by Caleb, Christopher, and David. We thought it would be fun to see them up together, it’s always interesting to see different peoples take on the same character. Thanks to everyone who sent something in- keep on drawing!




And for fun, here is one of the first drawings I did of Hoggy, including his heretofore unknown first name, Horace:

Early scribble of Hogsqueal

We Don’t Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 1)

April 14, 2008

“Kenny and the Dragon” cover

I am in the thick of finishing the 30+ illustrations for my upcoming chapter book, Kenny and the Dragon. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is inspired from Kenneth Grahame’s short story, The Reluctant Dragon, from his book Dream Days.

Originally, my idea was to set this story in the 1950’s -very Americana, very Norman Rockwell. But there were some plot issues that I just could not seem to resolve, so I wandered creatively for a bit. Then my agent, Ellen, proposed a horrible idea over dinner one night while up on the set for Spiderwick:

Tony: “So this story is one of my favorites, and it was written by the guy who wrote The Wind in the Willows.”

Ellen: “Wind in the Willows? Why don’t you make the characters all animals like in that story?”

Tony: “Animals? I don’t know…I don’t make ‘Fuzzy-Bunny’ books”

The term is actually one my editor, Kevin, and I often use. It refers to the idea that there are plenty of insipid, saccharine-y books out there for children, and that all the books we create will have some kernel of truth, of realism, that is planted in their heart.

First drawing I did of Kenny

But then, I DO LOVE Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, Redwall, Beatrix Potter books, heck, even Aesop’s fables. Perhaps (like the dragon design situation I faced early on), it was less about the physical skin the character wore, and more about what was inside.

Second drawing I did of a bookish Kenny

And, to my knowledge, I haven’t seen a dragon book with talking animals. Perhaps there was something there after all…

Friday Fan Art!

April 4, 2008

“Huper-Snout Boggart” by Christopher

It’s one thing to draw things we know, and quite another to draw things no one has ever seen before. This is especially true in the world of fantastical art: some artists stick to the standard fare of dragons and willow-limbed elves, and others venture far afield, creating entirely new creatures for unusual worlds.

“Stray Stump” by Christopher

I’ve always seen myself as having a foot in either camp. I draw on a lot of traditional mythological imagery, but I always look at it with a fresh eye for invention. If I’m not drawing a newly invented creature I try to add something exciting to the design. Sometimes I am inspired by the natural world, and sometimes by pure fancy. This is a skill that has taken me years to begin to understand, yet it is one that I’ve seen in abundance from these two inspiring fans!

“Common Butterfly Boggart” by Christopher

Christopher, age 10, has created some wonderful faerie/insect-inspired creatures. I really love his sense of imagination, this is definitely the sort of thing I was drawing when I was his age…except I wasn’t as technically adept with the pencil as he is.

“The Thestequitrix” by Valkyrie, 11

Valkyrie (yes her real name – so cool!), age 11(!), has created another amazing creature, the Thestequitrix, and her drawings are so nicely done! She has a great sense of anatomy and gesture, and she’s even developed a great storyline and world to back up it all up.

“The Snovaglot” by Valkyrie, 11

These two have really inspired me a lot, and I’m so glad that my work is perhaps helping inspire the next generation of great creators.

Home again, home again…

April 3, 2008

Partaying S’WICK Style

We just returned home from Florida where I was recuperating from a whirlwind publicity tour in the United Kingdom. Hol and I crammed the week-plus trip with book signings and other Spiderwick media events in England and Ireland.

I have to say, the UK is truly like a second home to me. The food is great, the folks I met were jovial and warm, and of course the literary and artistic heritage is the fiber that I am woven from.

Outside the BBC offices, Leeds

Highlights from the tour included spending an afternoon at antique bookstores and at the Chris Beetles gallery pouring over the original Arthur Rackham, Ernest Shepard, and Sir John Tenniel art.

Speaking of the great Alice illustrator, we taped a show for the BBC called Blue Peter in the London cemetery, and I happened upon the tomb of the family Dalziel. The Dalziel brothers, Edward and George, were famous Victorian engravers who created the woodcuts for Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was really neat to be so close to these people whose work had influenced me so much.

Hol & I at the London cemetary

Later on, in the town of Leeds, we did a presentation for a group of kids at the Leeds Art Gallery where they pulled out of storage, JUST FOR US, one of Atkinson Grimshaw’s “Iris” paintings! This famous Victorian fairy painter has always entranced me with his moody lighting and simple composition. To see the original in person was just awesome.

Posing with “Iris”

…sorry the picture blows. Between the lacquer on his painting and the layers of glass over it, I just couldn’t get a decent shot. Here’s a detail of the head though:

Detail of “Iris”

I had a blast drawing and cracking jokes for the kids, and it seems like the film is being well received as well (it was being released while we were there). I really am looking forward to going back, and bringing Sophia along to learn about the wonder and beauty of my favorite part of the world.

Friday Fan Art!

March 6, 2008

Wow! Obviously with the onslaught of Spiderwick-edness that has been barraging everybody over the past month, I have received buckets of fan-mail with all sorts of well-wishes and amazing stories of how my work has affected others. I am so touched – what a validation.

I’ve been so busy cranking out the final edits on my upcoming chapter book, Kenny and the Dragon, that I have been holding onto a few stars in the “Friday Fan Art” category – but this one needed to be shared with you all immediately as the timing is perfect.

Hoggy & Thimbletack by Joe

I’ve been chatting with Joe for years now, encouraging his imagination and obvious talent…which, honestly, he already has plenty of. I do this, because folks like William Stout, Jim Gurney and Brian Froud encouraged me along my way – and I never forgot how much a simple “follow your dreams” note from someone you look up to really keeps you going.

Along with his neato “Thank You” painting came this REALLY cool book on gadgets.

Cool Book o’Gadgets!

THANK YOU Joe, for the awesome image! Now finish your dream book, and get a website up, with all the cool art that you’ve been sending me, so everyone else can see it.

PS – Send fan art/money/babysitters/toys/books to:
Tony DiTerlizzi
PO Box #442
Amherst, MA 01004

UPDATE: With a tip-off from his wife, here is Joe’s other work!

Friday fan art

February 29, 2008

We got some more excellent Spiderwick an art this week, check it out! Thanks to Annie, Anna, Andrew and Marisa!





I’m Lovin’ It!

February 21, 2008

I see McDonald’s has The Spiderwick Chronicles Happy-Meals now available. If I didn’t think the film, toys, cereal, and video game were surreal enough, this definitely sent me to dreamland.

Spiderwick Happy Meal Box

My parents took us kids to get fast food every once and awhile. I grew up on Burger Chef and their equivalent to a Happy Meal, called the Fun Meal – which I loved. So I know the kid-version of me would so be into getting a “Common Ground Goblin” with my cheeseburger…or feeding Hogsqueal some fries.

Spiderwick Happy Meals Toys

Spiderwick Action Figs

February 10, 2008

I see that Ty’s Toy Box now has the Spiderwick Action figures available. Choose from Jared, Hogsqueal, Redcap or Mulgarath. Here’s hoping we get a Mallory, Simon and Thimbletack as well.

Spiderwick Action Figs

I am not sure if these are final toys pictured here or early prototypes. If anyone finds them, please drop a comment as to where so others can hunt them down:)

Whoa, they made a film? Outta my books!?

February 8, 2008

Angela and I just returned from the Los Angeles and New York premieres of The Spiderwick Chronicles movie. We watched the film in both venues (this makes it my 6th time seeing it) and celebrated its completion with Holly and the cast and crew. It was a whirlwind of interviews, photographs and fancy clothes…and in the blink of an eye it was over (that is, until we head out to promote it in the United Kingdom next month).

Tony D, David Strathairn, and Holly Black

So, as many have asked, what has this been like? How does it feel to have a film adapted from your books, stories, characters and art? Many words come to mind:


..but I don’t think they quite convey the mixture of emotions that myself, Angela (and Holly) have gone through. So I’ll tell this little tidbit of a tale in hopes that it illustrates how I truly feel about all of this.

“Quaatale” Ice Dragon from GONDWANALAND

Back in the summer of 1982, I made a little book called Gondwanaland. In it, a group of scientists discover an island full of fantasy creatures and record their habits, habitats and images. It was written and illustrated by a 12 year-old incarnation of me, and it came from a naturalist’s perspective. I was greatly inspired from the game Dungeons & Dragons, books like Brian Froud & Alan Lee’s Faeries, and films like Star Wars and The Dark Crystal – all things I’ve rambled on about in this blog before.

“Blue Finned Mermaid” by Tony D, 1995

I forgot about the book for some time, but returned to it in the 90’s while I was contributing regularly as an artist for D&D and the Planescape role-playing game. I began redoing some of the illustrations and approached TSR about publishing a field guide to faeries, trolls and goblins. They declined, and I moved on to achieving my dream of creating books for children.

Early cover idea for ARTHUR SPIDERWICK’S FIELD GUIDE, 1998

I did some picture books, won a couple of awards, and (at last) had the opportunity to create my field guide with the help of my good friend, Holly. On top of the Arthur Spiderwick myth, we told the story of Jared, Simon and Mallory Grace – and how dangerous the real world of faeries can be. We had no idea if children would like it, but we sure enjoyed crafting the tales.

First final character drawings of the Grace kids, 2001-2002

To our delight, the books were well received: teachers, librarians and critics loved them, kids and parents loved them, and Nickelodeon & Paramount Pictures loved them – I figured I was dreaming: I was still 12 years-old, and my mom would wake me up for school any minute.

Mark Waters signed on as a director (fresh off of his hit Mean Girls). John Sayles wrote a draft of the script. Phil Tippett and Industrial Light & Magic came on to create the special effects for the film. Celebrated actors like Nick Nolte, Martin Short, David Strathairn, Mary Louise-Parker, Sarah Bolger and Freddie Highmore signed on to play the roles of characters Hol and I created – and all the while, all I could think was “My mom is going to wake me up any minute now.”

The Grace kids from the film THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES

In short, the final film is fantastic. It breathes the same air the books do. It’s dirty, organic, richly visualized, and fast paced. There are no glittery tinkly faeries here, just celluloid spirits re-forged from the old folklore that had inspired me all these years. It’s a thrilling, raucous ride with a little heart and soul, and I feel like…like…a 12 year-old when I watch it.

Maybe I am dreaming – or simply, this is what it feels like when a boyhood dream comes true.

I hope you enjoy the faeries (and the film).

BOOKS: Magnetic Storm

January 24, 2008

My earlier talk of records and album cover artwork has inspired me crack open an old book that I’ve not looked at in some time. Upon opening it, I immediately saw that it was more influential than I realized.

Magnetic Storm by Roger & Martyn Dean

I purchased Roger and Martyn Dean’s Magnetic Storm back in 1984 when I was 15 years old. I was blown away the dynamic, colorful dragons that adorned the book jacket (and the then-popular band, Asia’s album cover).

Asia Dragon

Now that I look at it, their designs most definitely influenced my creature designs in Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, especially the colorful patterning.

Morning Dragon

More importantly though, I remember copying their totally cool hand-drawn-lettering. This element has become an integral part of my book-making philosophy to this day.

Roger Dean’s logo

In our digital world of “Anything can become a font”, I have relished the fact that most of my books have hand-drawn titling – something I seriously first took notice of while copying images out of my copy of Magnetic Storm. Seriously, why wouldn’t the titling to a piece of art not come from the same mind-space, the same vision, the same hand, as the image it is meant to compliment?

Yes (the band’s) logo

Roger and Martyn have done many tomes on their various contributions to books, albums, conceptual art, and architecture. Give their site a look-see, and by all means check out one of their titles – I guarantee it will inspire you.

Tony’s Dean-inspired Roi logo

Friday Fan Art!

January 24, 2008

Some serious Spiderwicky goodness arrived in my mailbox this week. Check out these gems:

Jared, Simon & Mallory by Christopher, Rizwan and Galen

A nixie by Ivy

A brownie by Joel

These are just AWESOME guys (and gals)! Keep’em comin…

Catch Lucky!

January 17, 2008

This ran in today’s Publisher’s Weekly:

A Tasty Promotion for Spiderwick
By Karen Raugust — Publishers Weekly, 1/17/2008

Lucky Charms S’WICK-Style

Simon and Schuster has partnered with General Mills for a 10 million-box, five-brand cereal promotion tied to the Spiderwick Chronicles. Running from January 1 to March 1, the promotion’s timing is tied to the Spiderwick film being released in February. But its focus is entirely on the books. In fact, when the two companies started talking about the partnership, the film was optioned but didn’t have a green light, so it wasn’t a factor in the deal, according to Laura Ferguson, S&S director of premiums, CDP and corporate sales.

Specially marked boxes of Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Reese’s Puffs, Cookie Crisps and Honey Nut Cheerios will include one of three collectible books based on the second title in the Spiderwick series, The Seeing Stone. The three will be evenly distributed among the 10 million boxes, with each store receiving some of each title. The cover is visible through a clear window in each box.

Each book features a third of the original story with a special introduction and conclusion, followed by a brand-new prequel story and illustrations created by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black in conjunction with GM and S&S. The new material, which comprises about 10 to 15 of the 64 pages in each book, is available only through the GM promotion.

S.E. General Mills S’WICK books

This project has taken almost 2 years to complete. But, having VERY fond memories of getting a cool prize in a cereal box as a kid, I do think it was worth it. Holly and I created “Lost Chapters” (with new art) for the Spiderwick universe.

One lost chapter is about Thimbletack becoming a boggart, another is how the troll’s bridge was destroyed, and the last one was how Hogsqueal (or Hoggy, as I call him) was captured by the goblins.

Hoggy snoozin’ from GREAT ESCAPE

Hopefully, if you are already a fan of the books, you’ll enjoy these little sidetracks. The cool thing is that the boxes have a window showing you what book is inside, so you won’t have to eat your weight in Lucky Charms only to find a duplicate prize…man, I hated when that happened as a kid.

So Inspired!

January 13, 2008

Angela came across a writing contest, “The Ultimate Fantasy Fan”, that was being run by Spiderwick studio Paramount Pictures and Harry Potter fan club, Mugglenet. The winner of which will be able to interview folks attending the Los Angeles premiere! A 13-year old gal, Amanda, won and here is her killer essay.

I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to have created a world which has inspired so many young (and old) imaginations. I feel so honored to be part of this fantastic culture; yet, I usually work at home with only my public events (like book-signings) to receive the praise from fans. So seeing others exhibit their creativity, like in this clever essay, truly touches me and, in turn, inspires me to create more.

Rock on Amanda! I’ll be looking for you on the red carpet and in bookstores in the future.

Spiderwick Video Game Stills!

January 8, 2008

Boy, they’ve come a long way since Atari’s Adventure, and Legend of Zelda! Here are some screen-shots of the Spiderwick video game which will have more characters and settings than what is in the movie, check out these Xbox shots:

The Spiderwick Estate

The Knocker at the Quarry


Beetle Mimic Sprite

…and here are some from the Playstation:

Simon faces off with a Bull Goblin!

Common Ground Goblins

Jared, Simon & Mallory Grace

(*btw, the platform system links take you to pages with many more shots)

The game designers were up on set when Holly and I were there and we were able to brainstorm a bit and offer some ideas. I know you will be able to play Jared, Simon, Mallory and Thimbletack! SO COOL! Can’t wait to fence as Mal on the Wii!

Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.